February 10, 2013 2 Comments
[This is a joint piece, with input from NEO]
The story outlined in this article is unbelievable – yet true. What is all the more unbelievable is that the author of this report says no one should be made a ‘scapegoat’, and puts the blame on ‘systems’ and ‘cultures’.
Someone recently said that the National Health Service (NHS) was the closest the British now have to a religion. At the opening ceremony of the Olympics there was a section given over to celebrating the NHS. We are always being told it is the ‘envy of the world’, and in something close to brainwashing, any criticism of it is usually quickly closed down by the media. We’ve been fed a version of its history which tells us that before it poor people were toothless and dying in the streets for lack of money, but that now it cares for us all regardless of cost on a basis of ‘need’ only. It is, in short, the last argument left for socialism. That may be why so many in our media circles refuse to see, even when they get a report like this, that their story no longer holds water.
There’s no such thing as ‘regardless of cost’. The NHS is the largest employer in Europe. Every doctor and nurse in every hospital, every porter, every workman in hospitals, every local doctor, every midwife and social worker, they are all NHS employees. The bill of this is huge. Whether, as some say, it is £100 billion, or £101.5 billion, it costs each of us about £1500 a year.
The BBC, funded by a compulsory tax on every household with a TV, tells us how wonderful it is and how much better than what the Americans have. It is certainly true that no one in the UK needs to worry about paying if they get ill. The NHS will take care of you – the problem is not the money, it is the ‘care’.
Across the last couple of decades our nurses have become much better qualified – they now have to be graduates. It is also true that across that time the standard of actual care has gone down, and they are now seriously suggesting that nurses need to be taught how to care. As in any nationalised industry, there are ‘targets’ to be achieved, and the report into the Staffordshire scandal shows how these, rather than patient care, became the primary concern of the managers and staff.
So yes, if you get ill the UK, you can see a doctor for free (although you will have to pay nearly £8 for any prescription medication he gives you), and you are operated on and cared for for free (that is you’ve already paid it in taxes). All of that is excellent, but it all costs, and clearly costs more than the hard-pressed taxpayer can afford. As in any large organisation with many employees, keeping an eye on the budget is difficult, and there is no doubt that the costs of medical care have escalated, and will continue to do so.
Whether scandals such as this one will actually make people in the UK wake up to the reality of the NHS I doubt. But as anyone who has been ill in Germany or Sweden will tell you, there are better ways of doing these things. It is here that the myth of the NHS does the greatest harm. Any politician who suggests the thing needs root and branch reform is branded a heretic – when in fact he may well be saying no more than a truth which the media do not want to hear.
From the point of view of the United States, it is a reminder that some of the examples called in aid in favour of Obamacare need more analysis and less sentimentality.